Monday, 18 February 2013

London Marathon 2011

In 2011 I ran the London Marathon in memeory of my good friend Ray Glazer, who had recently passed away of a long battle with cancer. In Ray's memory I raised money for two worthwile charities, MacMillian Cancer Support and the Alzheimer's Society.

Below is my original report, posted on the Adventure Fundraising website.
After not getting to bed until gone 01.00 I was back up again at 05.30 ready to make my way to the start line. After a quick breakfast I hit the tube system on route to my start point at Blackheath. The tube was very busy and once on the DLR & South Eastern trains everyone was crammed into the carraiges shoulder to shoulder. However, all the train operators ran the services very well with extra trains put on and plenty of station staff to assist.

The atmosphere at the runners start area was very friendly, with people chatting to each other whilst getting ready and loading their kit bags onto the trucks, to be transported to the finish area. I have to say that the logistical organisation of the whole event was second to none.

After suffering from a bout of the 'Man Flu' and missing most of the last two weeks of my training I thought that I would be running much slower than I had intended and therefore decided to put myself further back in the start line, than my allocated position according to my predicted time of 3hrs 30mins. This proved to be a big mistake as once across the start line it took a long time and several miles for the thousands of runners, who were running shoulder to shoulder, to thin out enough for me to be able to pass people and work my way up through the crowds. Eventually though gaps did appear and it was possible to start striding out and make good progress.

Once I was underway and running well I calculated that I should be able to do a 3:45 or even a 3:40 if all went well. The atmosphere was fantastic with thousands of people cheering the runners on and bands playing on virtualy every corner. Kids were everywhere wanting to 'high five' with the runners as they went by. With water stations placed every few miles I was able to take on board plenty of water, which was essential in the heat. By about mile 6 I was already seeing people lying at the sides of the road in difficulty and the numbers increased, further into the route. Quite a few appeared to be in a bad way and were being tended to by medics.

By mile 7 I was feeling quite hungry, and passing various fast food outlets I was tempted to peel off for a quick bite to eat! However, I had the Lucozade Sport drinks stations to look forward to and my usual supply of sweets, in my bumbag, to provide me with sustanance. Whoopee!!

I felt I was running well now and enjoying the whole carnival atmosphere and the miles just dissapeared without me realising it. At mile 15, around Canary Wharf, the roads seemed to narrow causing the pace to drop again due to the congestion of runners. By mile 18, and approaching the heart of the cities financial district, my legs were staring to feel it a little. However, my spirits where high and you couldn't help but be carried along by the crowd and the fantastic atmosphere. At this stage I calculated that I was on for a 3hr:45min finish which I would have been happy with considering having been unwell and the level of training I'd done.

The 20 mile mark was a significant milestone as I was now counting down the miles instead of up. After mile 23 I would now be running in completely new terroritory as 21 miles was the furthest road miles I had done during training. Entering Blackfriars Tunnel was a short welcome relief from the baking sun and once out on the other side there would only be roughly a couple of miles to go to the finish.

My pace seemed to drop off considerably at around 24 miles and I had to have a word with myself to keep moving at a running pace and not a jog. Just before the 25 mile marker I heard my son Lewis shouting out from the crowd. I spotted him at Embankment with Pam and Lucy, all out to cheer both myself and the other runners on.

With a mile to go I realised that I wasn't even going to make the 3hr 50min mark. I don't know what had happened in those last few miles but I must have slowed the pace quite a bit. After passing through Parliment Square and running alongside St James' Park, with only 800 metres to go, I passed a man who could barely stand up. He had lost all control of his legs and fell to the ground in a heap. I still feel guilty about running by and not helping him but there were plenty of medics around who would be able to offer him assisstance. I hope he is ok and hopefully he was still able to cross the finish line and receive his medal. It must be heart renching for anyone not to be able to complete the marathon but to make it that far and falter, so close to the finish, must be heart breaking, after all those months of training.

With only 400 metres to go it was time to put a bit of a spurt on. At the end of St James's Park the route turns right passing Buckingham Palace and then turns into the Mall for the final 200 metres to the finish line. I sprinted this final 200metres (well as best you can after 26.2 miles) to finish in some sort of respectable fashion, crossing the finish line in 3hours 51 minutes and 41 seconds.

Although very disapointed with my time I had fully enjoyed the event and was happy that I'd ran in memory of my friend Ray Glazer and was able to raise money for two very worthy charities - MacMillan Cancer Support and Alzheimer's Society.

Now that a few days have passed and I've had time to reflect I suppose, as others have told me, that I shouldn't be too dissapointed with my time. After all I never originally set out to run a certain time. I ran the London Marathon because it was always something I'd wanted to do. Being a fellrunner, I only intended to run it the once and therefore wanted to enjoy the whole event whilst raising money for charity. Because I was running for charity I'd deliberalty conducted my training carefully and with caution so as not to get injured and ensure I made it to the start line. Coupled with not being to well and missing alot of my training, over the last two weeks, and starting too far back in the line-up, I suppose I can't complain.

However, I know I can run a much faster time, and as I told myself, within the first couple of miles, I will be running another to try to get a better time.

Two days after the marathon I was back out running on the hills and already formulating plans for my next fundraising adventure.

Thanks to all the people who sent messages of support and to those who donated to MacMillan Cancer Support and the Alzheimer's Society. Your donations will help to make a difference to peoples lives.

Chris M

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Saddleworth Northern 5 Trigs

On Tuesday 29th January Andy G, Howard and myself completed an Owls run around the Northern 5 Trigs.

Setting out from the Black Lad
We decided to start from the Black Lad, on Buckstones Road, instead of leaving the cars at Grains Bar. Just as we were getting ready for the off a lady came out of the pub and enquired about what we were doing. When we explained the plan for our evening's activities she declared us insane and, after taking our photo, left with a look of bewilderment on her face.

Striking out at 20:00 hrs, we followed public footpaths for the short section across the fields which would lead us to the edge of Crompton Moor. Another reason for not setting out from the traditional start point was to avoid a notoriously boggy section of footpath early on in the run. However, after the recent heavy rain and subsequent thawing of the snow the fields weren't in much better state.

We reached the first trig point of the night, on Crompton Moor, within 18 minutes. Pausing only briefly, for the obligatory trig photo, we were soon under way and heading through Ogden and Peithorn valleys on route to Blackstone Edge.

Following much of the Blackstone Boundary route now (Pennine Plod) we again made good time and soon reached the drain which makes its course past the Roman Road. Part-way along the drain we broke tracks and made a direct assault on the trig point. The last few metres of ascent being an easy scramble up the Gritstone rocks to attain the summit.

Blackstone Edge
With the second trig now in the bag we stopped a while to eat and drink, whilst admiring the display of illuminated patterns from streetlights in the towns far below and to the West. Before we set out it had been a wild wet night. However, the wind and rain had stopped just before the off and now we were feeling the effects of what had turned out to be a warm and balmy night. Gulping fluids down we realised that between us we hadn't brought enough to drink.

Still running at a good pace we soon covered the ground to Windy Hill and crossed Ripponden Road for the ascent up onto White Hill. In total contrast to Sunday mornings outing the path was free of the deep snow which had concealed freezing cold melt-water, running off the moors, and we were able to run the whole way to the trig point. The decent to the Nont-Sarahs Road was again completely runnable with only patches of snow managing to cling onto the last remnants of life in ditches and on North facing slopes.

Andy's last drops of fluids, consumed upon White Hill, must have contained some special energy giving powers for he now moved up in front and set an even quicker pace along Millstone Edge to the fourth trig point of the night.

After delving into the Liquorice Allsorts & Jelly Babies and sharing out the last drops of my drink we took a direct decent to escape the ever present wind which sweeps up from the Castleshaw Valley and batters the entire length of Millstone Edge. Passing the Roman Fort, which once guarded the Manchester to York Road, we soon reached the valley floor and followed the course of the river and the early section of the Castleshaw Canter route into Delph.

With the pubs now kicking out we had just missed the opportunity for a quick pint so pressed on through the village before taking a right up Grains Road in search of a suitable footpath which would lead us to Bishops Park. With this long thin strip of moor seeing little footfall our chosen path proved over-grown and the pace slowed as we clambered through energy sapping heather. However, Andy soon found a narrow gully, which offered an easier course, and our progress once more continued progressively forward instead of one step forward and three back, has had been the case only moments earlier.

5th and final trig point - Bishops park
With the clock ticking shy of midnight we reached our fifth and final trig point of the night at Bishops Park. Time for the final summit photo. Before we had set off we had made a bet - the wager being a round of drinks - how long it would take us to complete the round. With that in mind we didn't linger and set out across the golf course and down Buckstones Road to return from whence we came.

We arrived back at the Black Lad in 4 hours 4 minutes 30 seconds. Not a bad time for a what was a steady night-time training run.

The Northern 5 Trigs is a great route with a whole album of pleasing views on offer if run during the day. Unlike the Saddleworth 5 trigs which is a little longer with more ascent and rougher underfoot, it is easily runnable all the way.

The Best Coffee in the World - a night time round of the Saddleworth 5 trigs

With the Owls having a well earned rest from nocturnal flying over the Christmas period it was time to get the head torches back out and once again hit the hills for some night time adventure. The chosen route for the first owls run of 2013 was 'The Saddleworth 5 Trigs'.

The Owls about to set off on the Nocturnal 5 Trigs Run

The owls, Chris M, Andy G, Howard H and Bruce B, assisted by Charlie B, who kindly volunteered to be our support crew, assembled in the car park of the Clarence public house, Greenfield, in preparation for a midnight departure.

Leaving the Clarence we headed off towards Mossley ad then turned left up past the old co-op building on route to our first trig point upon Alphin. The night was so mild that we ran this section in just long sleeved running tops and didn't don cag's until reaching Chew Reservoir. Chatting away happily between ourselves we made good time up to the summit of Alphin, in around 30 minutes.

1st trig point of the night - Alphin Pike
One trig point down we headed along the edges, again at a reasonable pace. Due to all the recent rain the vast expanses of peat which are crossed on this section was the consistency of thick porridge. However, we soon reached Indians Head followed by Stable Stones Brow, Chew Hurdles and then Chew Reservoir.

At Chew reservoir we intended to stop briefly for a quick bite to eat so now put on our cag's to keep at bay the chilly wind which was blowing up the valley. After running with us over this first leg it was time for Bruce and Howard to make their return for home via the Dove Stones Valley. It had been great running with them and Andy and I where grateful for their company. Howard, never wanting to miss a little bit of adventure, had come out in the dead of night, even though he wasn't fully recovered from his recent bout of illness. When they left, with the plan of phoning Charlie when they got back to inform him of their safe return, it was time for Andy and myself to continue around the remaining four trigs.

Howard and Bruce about to descend into the Dovestone Valley
As we ran along the shores of Chew Reservoir the clag began to close in and as the light from our head torches bounced back at us off the mist, it became clear that it would not be the easiest of tasks to find the second trig point on Featherbed Moss. After spending some time finding and confirming that we were at the outflow of Green Grain, Andy and I remembered that we were both carrying GPS's. Firing Andy's up we confirmed our position and set off across the moor to locate the elusive white pyramid. The trig point upon Featherbed Moss can be difficult to locate even in good weather. Even when picking a good line you can be almost upon it before it appears out of the peat. With this in mind I kept a constant eye on our bearing whilst Andy would read out the GPS co-ordinates at regular intervals. Each time I would check the map and was always happy where we where. Eventually the trig point appeared out of the mist, caught in Andy's torch light just a little over to our left.

Trig point No: 2 - Featherbed Moss

After a short stop for some liquorice Allsorts and to set a new bearing we set off in search of the next trig point on Black Hill. Moving on a bearing across the wet and sodden moor our feet were by now soaked and we were caked in wet mud up to the knees. After a while we intercepted the foot path leading from Chew Reservoir to Laddow Rocks as planned. Favouring this route instead of heading further across the moor, as often done in daylight, we made good time along the runnable path. Reaching Laddow Rocks we headed generally north, following the Pennine Way, and again made reasonable time in a bid to claw back some of the time spent in the fog on Featherbed Moss.

Black Hill was attained without any problems and we were both still going strong. By now we were thinking of Charlie who was waiting for us at New Snoopy's and we were sure that we could smell the waiting coffee drifting upon the wind. The descent along the flagged section of the Pennine Way was very slippy underfoot and we had to heed caution so has not to slip. With the sky now clearing we enjoyed far reaching views over the illuminated streets of Holmfirth and Huddersfield, where presumably most people were tucked up in warm beds. Suddenly a bright light shot through the sky and illuminated us still high upon the hill. What could be the source of such a powerful beam? Was it the police helicopter or an alien space craft maybe? No it was Charlies million candle watt, super charged, hand lamp guiding us in to New Snoopy's layby. The coffee was waiting! We signalled back to him and continued on, paying less regard now to the slippery slabs underfoot as we hurried to the coffee stop.

3rd trig - Black Hill

Charlie greeted us with that big friendly smile he has and full of the enthusiasm that only fellow fellrunners can muster in the early hours of the morning when involved in some similar mad capped idea. He duly pulled out a flask of steaming coffee and poured it into two large Costa Coffee cups. "Get that down you", he said. "I've got two flasks here for you." It was like drinking nectar! Stood there in a windy lay-by, on the Isle of Sky Road, at around 3.30 am in the morning, that coffee was the best coffee I'd tasted anywhere in the world. If Charlie was to make his coffee and sell it on the high street he would put Costa Coffee out of business in no time. Whilst drinking our welcoming brews Charlie informed us of his own adventures, whilst parked in the lay-by, awaiting our arrival. He'd had cars pull up and flash their lights at him hoping for some sort of coded response, the Police had stopped and ask what he was doing there and soon after he witnessed the same police officers in a high speed car chase from Holmfirth towards Saddleworth.

After spending about 10 or 15 minutes with Charlie it was time to set off before our legs seized up. Just as we were getting ready for the off we spotted two head-torches descending the the Pennine Way path from Black Hill. Torn between hanging around to see who else could be out on the hill at this hour and needing to get going we left Charlie with the task of solving the mystery.

Now refuelled with Charlies wonderful coffee we headed off, at a good pace, along the Meltham road for what is a short stretch of tarmac leading to the foot of West Nab. Leaving the road and crossing the fence we made the short ascent to the summit of West Nab and the fourth trig point of the night.

Four down, one to go - West Nab

The fifth section of this round is the roughest under foot with barely a trod to be found in daylight let alone at night. Heading west along the flat summit we crossed the fence and then hand-railed Leyzing Clough. Even in winter, when the Turks Heads have died back, this is still a rough and difficult decent where tired legs fail to lift properly and a toe caught on a tussock can cause a fall or at best cursing and swearing as you loose your balance and your stride. Hitting the wide path which runs down Wessenden Valley we turned South East for a short while heading for the Dam Wall of Wessenden Head Reservoir. At this point we met the two individuals who's torches we had seen earlier descending Black Hill. They were male and female members of the Rucksack Club walking Edale to Marsden return, which is a traditional challenge for their club.

After crossing the dam we began our trog up Shiny Brook Clough. In the dark, with the moon occasionally peaking from behind moody clouds, we failed to find the faint trods which can sometimes be located in daylight hours. Even though we were walking we still made good time and we were soon crossing the peat groughs which bisected our route, running into West Grain.

With the fence line attained, we made a quick check of our exact location and planned to follow it south for four hundred meters in order to make the shortest crossing possible to the PW footpath, across what is notoriously a very wet and boggy section of moor. Deviating from our plan a little too early we encountered several tracts of moor which were impassable peat bogs. Like arctic explorers searching for routes around unfrozen leads we wandered back and forth picking our way around the deep bogs, across what little firm ground we could find, loosing time in the process.

Hitting the Pennine Way at a point that should have been a little South of the Cotton Famine Road we made a quick check on the GPS. Bingo! We were 100 meters south. Once again, as done on a couple of occasions tonight, we paced out the distance. " One Hundred meters. Check the GPS Andy." Spot on! we were at the end of the Cotton Famine. Or so we hoped. Setting a bearing we headed off across the moor. Less than a hundred meters west and we were delighted to find that we truly were on the old Cotton Famine Road. Go West young men, go West.

The run along the Cotton Famine was a delight after trudging over sodden tussocky ground where the legs had become caked in heavy wet peat, up to the knees, which saps the energy from already tiring limbs. With the mist once again rolling in, reducing visibility, we encountered a broken section of this early Victorian highway where its course turns North West. Dropping into the sodden gap we made a slight mistake climbing out a little to the South. Looking at the map we where only 400 to 500 meters East of Broadstones Trig Point. "We'll go for it straight on", we decided, instead of retracing our steps back onto the Cotton Famine. Heading across the moor we soon reached Broadstone Clough, close to the rocky outcrop that is Broadstones. In the mist we couldn't accurately recognise a location which we had run past so often in the past. Turning North we soon came upon Sykes Pillar (Broadstones Trig Point) named after the late Frank Sykes, one of the founding members of Saddleworth Runners Club. Now at our fifth and final trig point Andy sent a quick text message home to let Monica know we were ok. Probably more in the hope that she would have bacon butties ready for when he got home! There's Bob Hope and in Andy's case there's NO HOPE!

Fifth and final trig - Sykes Pillar (Broadstones trig point)

Homeward bound now, we set off along the hill passing Slade Rocks, Shaw Rocks and onto the Sugar Loaf before descending the track to the war memorial at Pot's & Pan's. Following the course of the return leg of the Saddleworth Fell Race we descended off the hill, picked up Tunstead Lane and returned to the Clarence to the sound of the birds playing their morning chorus.

Back at the Clarence after 7 hours on the hills

We had been out on the hill for a little over 7 hours in total. I had envisaged it would take us about 6 hours to complete the 18 to 20 miles circuit, if the weather was kind to us. With stops of about 5 minutes at each trig point for, food and map checks, plus 10 to 15 minutes spent with Charlie and then some time delays in the mist and slow going across a really boggy section of moor we had done quite well for a night round of the Saddleworth 5 Trigs.

It was a fantastic outing enjoyed with great friends. Thanks to Howard and Bruce for joining us over the first part of our journey and a special thanks to Charlie for waiting for us at New Snoopy's with 'The Best Coffee in the World'.

Special Owl points are awarded tonight:

Howard and Bruce get 4 points for running in support, Andy and I get 4 for completing the night time round and Charlie gets 4 honorary points for his support and a further 4 points for is Owl Coffee.

Kit carried between Andy and myself:

  • Rucksacks x 2
  • Map & Compass x 2
  • GPS x 2
  • Head-torches x 2 plus spare torch and batteries.
  • Mobile phones x 2
  • Spare warm clothing including hat, gloves, waterproof cag and over trousers.
  • Emergency Bivvi shelter
  • Small first aid kit
  • Mixed sweets, drinks, ham sandwich, cerial bars, 2 pieces of christmas cake & Kendal Mint Cake.